Visiting Oak Park

Short version of this post: I’m in Oak Park for the next couple months.

Longer version:

After months of uncertainty and waffling, I decided to come to Oak Park to see Mary Anne and Kat.

I’m not going to go into detail here about my whole thought process leading up to that decision. I will mention one piece of it: I haven’t seen Mary Anne or had much online interaction with her since March, and our relationship tends to go better when we see each other regularly. (But other factors went into my decision as well.) I considered waiting until I could get the vaccine—but that likely won’t happen until June or so, and then after I get the first dose it’ll be another six or more weeks before the second dose takes full effect, and even then the vaccines don’t give full immunity (and we don’t know yet whether you can infect other people after being vaccinated). So the core of my choice came down to coming now (with the Xmas/New Year spike more or less over) or waiting another six+ months and then still having to take precautions.

Given that I’ve barely left my house since March (with a few small exceptions, such as grocery shopping every few weeks), and given that I am in general extremely risk-averse, and given that I know that people traveling have fueled big spikes in the pandemic, I was pretty stressed and hesitant about getting on an airplane. But it turns out that airplanes aren’t as dangerous (in terms of virus spread) as I had originally assumed they were (their ventilation systems are very good), and I took all the precautions I could: N95 mask; face shield; hood; latex gloves; flying Delta (where seats are blocked off to provide distancing, so I didn’t have to sit next to anyone); keeping airflow turned all the way up; not eating or drinking anything (or otherwise removing my mask) during the whole travel experience; not leaving my seat during the flight; not interacting with anyone; not using any bathrooms en route; trying not to touch anything; etc.

The travel was nonetheless stressful, especially the brief stop in SLC, but I made it here.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend air travel these days for anything other than very strong reasons. (But I suppose most people who are traveling these days consider their reasons to be strong ones.) And if you do have strong reasons to travel, I definitely recommend taking as many precautions as possible, and spending two weeks in quarantine after you arrive.

Speaking of which, I’m now in a two-week quarantine, not interacting with anyone in person, staying in an Airbnb apartment that was heavily cleaned before I arrived. I’ll take a COVID test (by mail) around day 7 and another around day 11. I’m hoping both of those tests will come back negative. We’ll see. (And yes, it’s possible for tests to give false negatives. But taking two tests significantly reduces the likelihood of that. And I’ll continue to get tested about once a week after the quarantine is over, as I have been for the past few weeks.)

Meanwhile, the N95 mask had one small visual side effect: an N95 can’t make a proper seal against facial hair, so I had to shave off a fair bit of my beard. (The CDC has a diagram showing what facial-hair styles are and aren’t N95-compatible!) I left part of my beard intact, and from some angles it may not be obvious that it’s different; but it’s obvious (and mildly offputting) to me when I look in a mirror. (I’ll post photos sooner or later.)

I may end up keeping it this way for the duration; I don’t like this style on me, but it is handy to be able to wear an N95 mask if need be.

(And I like it this way a little bit better than shaving it off entirely; last time I did that was ten years ago, and I didn’t like that and would prefer to never do it again.)

The Airbnb is good. Much bigger than I was expecting—it’s a full-size 2-bedroom apartment, with a living room and a dining room. Welcoming and pleasant. And usually warm (and the thermostat and everything else are separate from the owners’ place upstairs, so I have full control over the apartment’s temperature). And mostly quiet—I can hear the owners and their dog walking around upstairs occasionally, but usually not, and I’m getting almost no noise from outside. The big box of stuff that I mailed to myself before I left home arrived Tuesday (books, games, toys, extra shirts, etc), as did a grocery-delivery order, and a small MIDI-controller keyboard arrived Wednesday for me to use in piano practice, so I’m pretty well set. I do still have some setup left to do—figuring out where best to plug things in and so on—and my sleep hasn’t been great; but mostly things are pretty good here so far.

One adjustment I’ve had to make this week is that, just like what happened in the early days of the pandemic while Kam was deployed, my mental model of this two-week quarantine period was that I would be completely isolated, so I was thinking in terms of nice quiet downtime. But as happened in those early days, it hasn’t turned out to be very isolated. I’ve had multiple video meetings for work, and video chats with Kat, and Kam and I watched the final episode of season 5 of The Expanse via Amazon Watch Party last night. And Mary Anne brought me soup and bagels Wednesday (and left them on the porch for me) (contactless). All of that interaction has been good; it just means I need to adjust my expectations for these two weeks and not think of it as an isolated solitary time. Which also probably means that I should explicitly schedule myself some downtime.

I’ll be in town until the end of March. I’ll be continuing day job work for most of that time; in the past, I haven’t been very successful at getting day job work done while visiting Oak Park, but I’m gonna try just hiding in my room during most of the workday. (And I’ll take a couple weeks of vacation at some point.) Meanwhile, Kam is doing various Projects at my place while I’m away; thank you, Kam!

Anyway, so that’s how things are with me. I’m sorry not to have posted about this sooner; I’ve been stressed and hesitant about it, and wasn’t up to talking about it in public.

(No advice, please.)

See also Facebook version of this post, with comments.

2 Responses to “Visiting Oak Park”

  1. Sumana Harihareswara

    Hope everything goes well! Glad to know airplanes are less of a vector than I would have thought.

  2. Travel day details – Lorem Ipsum

    […] Here’s a long detailed post about how my travel day went. (For background, see my post from the other day.) […]


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